Darren Aronofsky is known throughout the world as the celebrated director of such films as Black Swan, The Foundation and Requiem For a Dream. But he didn’t always have big budgets to use. Like every filmmaker, he had to start somewhere.

Aronofsky’s debut feature, Pi (also known as π), was shot in November 1997.

The film was financed entirely from $100 donations from friends and family. In return, he promised to pay each back $150 if the film made money, and they would at least get screen credit if the film lost money.

While visiting Israel as a youth he spent time in an Orthodox yeshiva, an experience that later informed the movie.

Producing the film with an initial budget of $60,000, Aronofsky premiered Pi at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, where he won the Best Director award. The film itself was nominated for a special Jury Award.

Artisan Entertainment bought distribution rights for $1 million. The film was released to the public later that year to critical acclaim and it grossed a total of $3,221,152 at the box-office.